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CSIR-CLRI’s Initiatives For Enabling Indian Leather Industry

CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute, a constituent laboratory of the CSIR, established in 1948 is entering into its 70th year. Year-long activities and programmes have been planned to commemorate 70 years of service in enabling leather through an academy-industry-research partnership forged from the very beginning. CSIR-CLRI nurtures the skilled manpower required for the sector at the global level. CSIR-CLRI represents the leather sector in all its planning and policy development. Over the years, the institute has transformed into a global hub for innovative technology driven development of the leather sector. Technologies for bioprocessing of leather, zero waste water discharge, value added materials from leather and indigenous chemicals for processing are some of the highlighting features of this institute. Reaching the unreached through grass root level artisanal training programmes, training of trainers etc. is an important feature of the S&T dissemination activities of the institute.

Through the institute, Indian leather sector strives to achieve economic and environmental sustainability, leading to more than doubling of the annual turnover from the present in about 4 years. The reinstatement of the tanneries in Tamil Nadu in 1996 stands a strong testimony to the contributions of this institute.

Skill development initiatives

Growth of any industry strongly depends on the availability of associated skill as well. The CSIR-CLRI has a strong mandate to develop, train and re-train the required manpower for this sector. About 60% of the skilled manpower in leather industry is from CSIR-CLRI. Training comes at all levels, be it the technical degrees or vocational programs, the institute has tailor made programs to suit the needs of the industry from time to time. Currently CSIR-CLRI has more than 30 different types of training programs. The institute hosts nearly 700 students at any point of time. On 23rd September 2016, integrated skill initiative program of the CSIR, which includes a major training program for under-privileged was launched. This would increase the training capacity of the institute to nearly 3000 per annum. In this, the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation, LIDCAP and Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Castes Co-operative Finance Corporation Limited have joined us. Through these programs the institute envisages

almost 30% enhancement of per capita income of 10000 people in different villages
improvement in social status significantly
standardization and global visibility to Indian ethnic products
This initiative would fulfil the dream of the Hon’ble Prime Minister in developing a skilled India.

Shift towards Sports Footwear

Hon’ble Prime Minister directed CSIR-CLRI to develop affordable sports footwear for enabling our sports personnel to do well in International events like Olympics during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of CSIR in September 2016. Towards this direction, CSIR-CLRI initiated a roundtable discussion on “Sports Footwear” with members from industry in November 2016 during the CSIR Technofest and a road map for developing sports footwear has been developed. Currently, CSIR-CLRI has a state-of the art Gait lab for analysis of comfort parameters for footwear to support this development.

Role of CLRI for re-enabling tanneries

In 1973, the implementation of the recommendation of Dr. Seetharamaiah committee to promote only export of finished leathers brought the CSIR-CLRI facilitated technological transition of the industry from semi-finished to finished leather exporter. During the same time, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed in 1974. CSIR-CLRI played a pivotal role in establishing CETPs not only in Tamil Nadu but also all over the country. CSIR-CLRI has also been providing prodigious service to the leather industries in Tamil Nadu to maintain and operate the CETPs successfully.

In 1991, Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum filed a case before the Supreme Court of India. This writ petition no. 914, filed under Article 32 prayed shutting down of the tanneries for not having adhered to the discharge norms of pollution control boards. Supreme Court in its order on 1st May 1995 directed the closure of around 700 tanneries in Tamil Nadu for not having met the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) requirement. CSIR-CLRI on request of the All India Skins and Hides Merchants Association (AISHMA), implemented cleaner technology measures and in-plant pollution control techniques and ensured the attainment of BOD norm. This facilitated the resumption of business in all the tanneries.

In 2001, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) asked the two tanning clusters at Dindigul and Pernambut to reduce the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of the treated wastewater from about 22 g/L to 7500 mg/L. CSIR-CLRI through implementation of the cleaner technology measures brought down the TDS level to about 5500 mg/L in six months in these two clusters. This fostered the confidence and technological capabilities of the Dindigul tanning cluster, which strived for discharge of treated wastewater through dilution with treated domestic wastewater. CSIR-CLRI provided all the necessary technical support and guidance in this respect.

In 2007, Madras High Court ordered the implantation of membrane-based technologies to attain zero liquid discharge. CSIR-CLRI provided all the necessary support in establishment of Reverse Osmosis units in individual tanneries and also in CETPs. CSIR-CLRI helped the tanneries of Dindigul and Trichy to obtain Geographical Indication (GI) for the historical process methodology of East India Tanning (EI). In 2008, GI for the EI leather was awarded to Trichy and DIndigul tanning clusters. Apart from these, CSIR-CLRI has been providing testing and analytical services for leather and leather products industries. The consultation services provided by CSIR-CLRI, to the tanneries of Tamil Nadu assured them of the production of quality products.

Recently, CSIR-CLRI along with AISHMA is addressing the issue of rendering the currently used Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) methodology sustainable. Technology upgradation towards sustainability of compliance to zero liquid discharge norms in tanneries in Tamil Nadu is being developed. Tannery waste liquor is being presently subjecting to RO desalination and the reject water is evaporated up to dryness stage using forced evaporation. The solid residue generated during the process is found to be a mixture of sodium chloride, sodium sulphate and calcium sulphate as its major constituents with minor quantities of magnesium chloride and other insoluble and soluble impurities. Inorder to solve this salt problem, AISHTMA will assume the role of the coordinating agency on behalf of the tannery sector in Tamil Nadu and the industry association will engage the CSIR laboratories (CLRI and CSMCRI) for designing and developing economically viable and environmentally sustainable solutions in a time bound manner. Thus, AISHTMA and CSIR labs will make a joint initiative to find secured solutions for salt problems associated with ZLD.

Recent technologies from CLRI

The research theme of the institute is the “Sustainability of the leather industry”. Leather sector makes a significant contribution to the GDP and also provides direct and indirect employment to people in the lower strata of income. To turn the industry from one, which used to consume large quantities of water and discharges a variety of liquid and solid pollutants, paradigm changes in the processing methodologies are required. Some of the developments in this area, which have been validated at industrial scales and also have been / will be translated to the industry, are:

Water free chrome tanning technologies
Zero wastewater discharge process
Cocktail of enzymes for bioprocessing
Development of syntans devoid of toxic chemicals
Developing soles for footwear from solid wastes of leather industry
Operational cost reduction and sludge minimisation in treatment plants
Hitherto unexplored exotic raw materials for Leather Life style products (Chicken feet skin, fish skin, ostrich skin etc.)
Children footwear for the growing feet
Footwear for diabetic and obese
Collagen and Collagen-Peptide based Biomaterials for Tissue Engineering Applications
Pharmaceutical grade gelatin from tannery wastes
Game changing technologies for leather processing

Waterless Tanning Technology

Chromium is the most sought after tanning agent with about 2.0 billion sq. ft. of leather being made in India. About 20 thousand tons of chrome tanning agent is discharged in the wastewater. CSIR-CLRI has a basket of technologies by which chromium uptake by the leather could be increased. Amongst these, the recent technologies, viz., the waterless chrome tanning technology and a product for facilitating dry tanning have made giant strides.

The waterless tanning technology has now found PAN INDIA acceptance, with tanners in all clusters enrolling for its adoption. This is truly a game changing technology that has emerged from the CSIR through CLRI. Significance of this technology is that a) it completely eliminates two processes before and after tanning, b) eliminates the use of water in tanning, c) reduces the total dissolved solids in wastewater from this process by 20% and also d) brings down the usage of chromium by 15-20%, resulting in material saving.

Efforts are now on to translate this technology both nationally and globally. Several countries including Ethiopia, South Africa, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brazil have evinced interest in this CSIR technology.

First of its kind chemicals for leather processing

The institute from its beginning has been contributing to the indigenous development of syntans and fatliquors. This process continues even today with the introduction of a chromium based product free of formaldehyde and specifically suited for poor quality raw materials to increase the per square feet value realization from leather.

Generating wealth from tannery solid waste

Through the decades sustainability of the sector has gained more and more attention. The institute has addressed the problems associated with the large solid wastes generated by this industry in a holistic manner. Today technologies that generate value, almost equal to that of leather itself have been developed by the CSIR from the leather wastes. Some of these technologies that have caught the attention are:

biofuels from wastes
hair composts for vegetation
shoe soles from limed flesh wastes
regenerated leather from leather trimmings and
fabrics from leather wastes
Towards environmental sustainability

Technologies for end-of-pipe treatment of wastes and increasing the efficiency of the common effluent treatment plants have been addressed through the institute. CSIR-CLRI technology for chrome recovery/reuse has been implemented in all tanneries in the country. Under the Namami Gange program, the institute has provided a detailed plan for waste management in tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur. Institute closely works with various central and state government bodies in ensuring the environmental compliance of the leather industry. The highlight of the technology support of CSIR-CLRI is in

State-of-art technologies for recovery and reuse of water by adopting membrane systems to control pollutants and meet water demands of the industry in Tamil Nadu.
The indigenously developed decentralized secured landfill setup has contributed to the environmental compliance by the industry.
Keeping in mind the need to control greenhouse gas emissions and sludge generated by effluent treatment plants, the institute has developed a series of advanced oxidation treatment processes that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and sludge generation by 80%. This technology has found acceptance not only by the leather industries but also by other industries as well as for municipal sewage treatment.
Technologies for biomethanisation of wastes using high rate anaerobic treatment process have been implemented not only in tanneries but also for pharma, agro and other industries.
Electro-oxidation technologies for zero wastewater discharge with negligible sludge generation
These technologies have also found acceptance in many of the manufacturing nations.

Heath care products impacting society

Collagen the predominant constituent protein of skin has been one of strong research points of CSIR. While modulating collagen structure and crosslinking for tanning, the institute has also developed a range of health care products based on collagen and other proteinous material like gelatin and keratin. Some of the products from the institute such as

wound healing materials
surgical sutures
burn dressing materials
high grade gelatin and
demineralized bone
have been commercialized and are finding acceptance globally.

Planning for future leather sector

The institute has prepared and submitted to the Government, a Technology Mission plan for Leather sector at a cost of approximately Rs. 2400 Crores. Through this plan, it is envisioned to provide proactive measures to upgrade and expand the technologies and thus the capacity of CETPs, along with skill development required. The envisioned modules include

Systematic collection of raw hides/skins
Technologies for capacity utilization of tanneries
Enhanced environmental management

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